This January seems more eventful than usual. In Hong Kong the hard-core democracy activist Szeto Wah, seventy-nine, passed away of lung cancer early this month. No doubt he was a respectful man. But those who took advantage of his death were by no means tolerable. Respect must be sincere, and excessive high-profile expressions of respect would only arouse questions of sincerity. Unfortunately there was no exception.
It is also interesting to observe how much flattery Mr Szeto had been showered after his passing. Just like riches and wealth, its benefactors seemed to believe the more the merrier, especially when it did not cost them a penny but a sound-bite. The flood of kind words and gestures was quite figuratively summarised by the headline on The Standard, "Idolising the Idealist". Notwithstanding the scepticism and sarcastic taint of the headline, there was at least some truth in it. The historical significance of any individual should be examined and evaluated through a longer, impersonal perspective, rather than the outpour of emotions of his/her time.
On the question of allowing Wang Dan and some of his comrades to attend Mr Szeto's funeral, the Hong Kong administration has regrettably, yet again, missed a rare opportunity of reconciliation with the more radical factions of the pro-democracy camp. Despite pressures from the pro-Beijing factions and even Beijing leaders themselves, Sir Donald's sheer cowardice was simply incomprehensible. It was obvious that he did not even realise (let alone bother to convince his seniors) the trick of killing a few birds with one stone. Granting the pro-democracy dissidents in exile access to Hong Kong (of which precedents were plenty and therefore not something out of the blue) not only would demonstrate the success of the "One Country, Two Systems" formulae, but also showcase the benevolence and generosity of Beijing. Any sensible individual should agree that the risk of the prominent dissident failing to keep his words would be minimal. Even if the worst scenario set in, the administration would have every legitimate reason to take appropriate action. So why was Mr Wang denied to Hong Kong? This stupid decision of a bunch of weaklings would only leave them even more exposed to hostile confrontations with not only the pro-democracy camp but also the general public.
Earlier on Chief Secretary for the Administration Henry Tang raised many eyebrows by criticising (although he personally might have only meant to admonish) the youth in Hong Kong to be more open and receptive to those who disagree with them. His speech, quite surprisingly, was well written and carefully thought through. Not surprisingly, the Internet-bred youth did not bother to read his own words but chose to be agitated by the anti-government media. Today some of them even took to the streets to protest against Mr Tang's remarks, accusing him of being the one who is truly stubborn and refuses to listen. The ferocious reaction of the youth, built on the long-standing absence of trust in the authorities and fanned by the media, only indicates that they have been hit hard on Achilles' heel. If the youth are looking for an overnight change of the status quo according to their rules of the game, then how different are they compared to the rich and powerful who are genuinely convinced that their logic and experience serves Hong Kong best? When we try to change the minds of the stubborn, we must never become stubborn ourselves in the first place. Minds are the most difficult to change and it takes time. We need engagement and negotiations but not confrontation. Confrontation is just a self-serving gesture but not a form of effective communication and seldom leads to anywhere meaningful.
As a second thought, it is also heart-hardening to see how public discourse on issues related to Hong Kong, as reflected in media reports and online discussions, has often been portrayed as a confrontation between the rich and powerful (largely those born in the 1950s) and the youth born in 1980 or later. Other generations were largely ignored and muted, except those individuals who have already made a name in the public domain. While Lui Tai-lok's analysis on generations is incredibly insightful, how relevant it is in facilitating a sustainable consensus for the future of Hong Kong? Generation politics is just a new framework but not the only one. Bolting down everything to the so-called "generational politics" is little more than a fallacy of laziness and lack of intellectual power.
Over the last week billionaire Stanley Ho's so-called wives also embarked on a dirty and vulgar dispute on wealth distribution to be executed after his death. Yet again, many people out there seem to enjoy this kind of gossipy and sensational story more than anything else, just like the disgusting precedents concerning Sun Ma Sze-tsang and Nina Wang. Whether this kind of shameless trivialities qualifies as news, in my opinion, still remains a big question mark.